ORLANDO, Fla. — Slipping on her pointe shoes, 13-year-old Amaya Joseph is living her best dream come true as she leaps into the role of a lifetime.

  • Orlando Ballet's The Nutcracker runs through December 16
  • Amaya Joseph, Cristina Sotolongo alternate the role of Clara
  • The ballet expanded performances because of demand
  • HAPPY HOLIDAYS 2018: News, events, tips, more
  • WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Go inside a dress rehearsal for Orlando Ballet's The Nutcracker and meet Amaya Joseph (Created by Joh Ficurilli/Spectrum News 13)

"Sometimes I'm like, 'Oh wow!' " Amaya said. "This show is going to be sold out, and everybody's going to be there and everyone's going to be watching and I definitely do get intimidated." 

Amaya remembers reading out loud each word of the email her mother received notifying her family of the role she landed.

"I was like, 'Wait. It says Clara on it,' and I started to scream, and my Mom started to scream," she said. "My Dad was screaming, too, and we were in the car, which probably isn't the best thing to do when you're driving."

Of 150 Orlando Ballet School students, artistic director Robert Hill chose her, along with a second student, to alternate in the magical performance. Amaya performs on opening night.

"I'm a very merit-based director," Hill said. "I've never had to focus on being more diverse — more this, more that — I really do make my selections based on merit, and she has what it takes. Amaya certainly does, and Cristina equally. They're both beautiful." 

Cristina Sotolongo is the other Orlando Ballet School student chosen.

Amaya says she understands other young ballerinas may want to follow in her footsteps and may be encouraged by her being African-American.

"You have someone who's African-American or Hispanic and you have them doing a lead role. It shows that you can do it too," she said.

She's been inspired by professional dancers such as Michaela Deprince, Misty Copeland, Sarah Burns, and Tiler Peck, saying she wants to follow their lead. 

"(I) Definitely (want) to get into a company and experience tours and having shows every night and just listen to the crowd applaud," Amaya said.

If you want to catch Orlando Ballet's The Nutcracker, Hill says you should know that the shows sell out fast.

Due to popular demand from last season, they've expanded the number of performances, which start Friday, December 7 and run through December 16 at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. There's a Nutcracker Family Show on December 8 and 15. It's a shorter one-hour show for younger audiences.

To get tickets, head to the Orlando Ballet website.